Sure, the Saints lost the playoff game against the Vikings last Sunday, but winning rarely teaches us about the character of a person, a team or a place. Most of us don’t really know who or what we are until we’re faced with failure. As an actor, my life has been nearly defined by rejection. My life credo has long been “Dare To Fail.” Maybe that’s why being a Saints fan has come so easy to me. So, the Saints lost in the last millisecond of the game and, of course, we’re all disappointed. But Saints fans can turn any loss into a win.
Though I have roots reaching back centuries in this city, I didn’t move here until 2009 as the Saints were heading to their amazing Super Bowl victory. That made me more of a “New Dat” than a Who Dat. But I watched every game in bars throughout the city, always arriving alone then getting invited to join families and festive groups of friends. I went to the Victory Parade alone as well. Stood for over 6 hours in 30 degree weather (anyone who knows me knows – I don’t even go to the yogurt section of the grocery store without a coat) and met hugging, crying, cheering people from all over the Who Dat Nation.
One of my strongest memories of that time was seeing that only 11 people greeted the Colts at the airport after their loss. It struck me as so odd that the second best team in football that year would only have 11 people show up to thank them and wish them better luck next year. I wasn’t at all surprised to see that thousands turned up at our airport after the Saints’ loss last Sunday. It was a truly great season, a roller coaster ride of newfound talent, seasoned veterans, unfortunate injuries, epically bad calls by refs and more. I laughed, I cried, I stood up and got crunk and I cheered myself hoarse week after week. And I believed.
In the wake of this “defeat,” the region has gone to the wall to make sure our players feel appreciated. When word spread that rookie Marcus Williams collapsed in the tunnel, blaming himself for the loss, someone paid for a billboard on the highway to tell him “Dat’s okay” and that we love him. The outpouring of love on social media – for the team and from the team – has been awe-inspiring and tear-inducing.
For those unfamiliar, the Who Dat Nation encompasses a wide swath of the Gulf Coast region since Mississippi and Alabama have no teams. But this week, we’ve even creeped into Minnesota as Viking fans have united to help punter Thomas Morstead’s charity What You Give Will Grow. Morstead did major damage to his ribs in one of the first plays of the game when he made a tackle (for non-football-lovers, punters don’t tackle). In excruciating pain, he heroically played the entire game, down to the wire. And Viking fans couldn’t help but notice and respect him for it. Now, the charity has set up a separate account for the Viking donations and collected over $86,000 and counting on Wednesday.
I’m human. I don’t like failure or rejection. But I’ve come to embrace some losses, even be grateful for them. Almost everything great in my life has come when I dared to fail. There are sayings about everything of value being available somewhere outside your comfort zone and that’s probably true. But I think the reason failure is so revealing isn’t about comfort, it’s about belief. Daring to fail means daring to believe. As an avid Saints fan, I always believe. Some people think they outsmart pain by not investing, not believing, not daring to fail. You’ve never heard of any of them and you never will. I believe and the Saints will be back! Who Dat!
And Geaux Pelicans!